Only The Honda Classic and the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard remain in Segment 2 of PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf. That fact could be a discourteous reminder that you've either painted yourself into a corner on usage of a couple of golfers who might play in both tournaments, or that you're out of starts entirely, but that's OK because we're at an annual turning point that demands attention.
The Florida Swing introduces a regular diet of bermudagrass greens. As a result, many golfers who are more comfortable on the strain will reconnect with form.
This phenomenon stands tall against the theory that PGA National's Champion Course isn't the kind of place that even guys who are out of form can find it on the challenging par 70 in the wind. Quite the contrary. Many can't wait to get back on it in the Sunshine State.
Using the 2018 edition as a comp (because winds were up like they're expected to be this week), Jamie Lovemark (7th) Kelly Kraft (T8), Dominic Bozzelli (T13) and Tom Lovelady (T17) all made relative noise after a forgettable West Coast Swing. Kraft's roots are in Texas, but the other three are locals and/or Southeasterners. What all shared in common (and still do) is that none were heavy investments in any fantasy format.
Surely, there's a random component to the official results of every tournament, but keep your eyes open and listen to the opinions of those who were looking forward to the Florida Swing no matter the level of difficulty of the host sites.
PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf
My roster for The Honda Classic (in alphabetical order):
You’ll find my starters in Expert Picks
Others to consider for each category (in alphabetical order):
Scoring: Byeong Hun An; Daniel Berger; Rickie Fowler; Brian Harman; Harry Higgs; Sungjae Im; Maverick McNealy; J.T. Poston; Vaughn Taylor
Driving: Daniel Berger; Tommy Fleetwood; Lucas Glover; Harry Higgs; Billy Horschel; Viktor Hovland; Sungjae Im; K.H. Lee; Shane Lowry; Jhonattan Vegas
POWER RANKINGS WILD CARD
Justin Rose … Does the Englishman stand a better chance of rising to victory than, say, the six non-winners in the Power Rankings? Probably, but he hasn't been firing on all 12 cylinders – relatively speaking, obviously – for a while. You can't argue that he's already a contrarian, but you still can't lead with him despite a trio of top-fives and a T15 in six appearances at PGA National. It's been seven years since his last cut made here and he's missed two, including in his last trip in 2015.
Russell Henley … He's precisely the kind of talent who qualifies as a short-lister based on my review at the top. He grew up on bermuda, played collegiately at Georgia and he's a former winner at PGA National (2014). In fact, he's missed only one cut in seven consecutive appearances, four of which yielding a top-25 finish. The bonus and the problem is that he defied logic and found his game at Riviera with a T17, so he's not necessarily sneaking up on us.
Lucas Glover … Like Henley, Glover checks all of the boxes with the TOUR shifting to Florida. He limps in with no top-35s in seven consecutive starts, but he missed the cut in only one. He's also gone T21-T17-T4 at PGA National since 2017. It's like a light switch.
Ian Poulter … Remained stuck as first alternate for last week's WGC, but that now means that he's rested and even hungrier to make his first official appearance in North America in over six months. He's missed only one of six cuts at PGA National and still has unfinished business after surrendering a three-shot, 54-hole lead in 2015, ultimately settling for a T3.
Sungjae Im … As odd trends are concerned, he's over par in each of his last four second rounds. It's a pattern that started on the South Course at Torrey Pines where he then shot 1-under 71 in the third round to prove that it's possible. All of his other most recent seven scores are red, so don't overreact. In fact, the loss of focus, for lack of a better description, could serve as a positive.
Scott Brown … OK, so he didn't deliver on the high hopes in Puerto Rico (T67), but he's still only one week removed from the co-runner-up at Riviera and he's 5-for-6 at PGA National with a pair of top-20s.
Louis Oosthuizen … He was the last man cut from the Power Rankings because he's yet to showcase the kind of ability at PGA National that he has just about everywhere else. Yes, he finished just inside the top 25 in his last two trips (2017, 2018), but those are his only paydays in five tries. He also finished but T51 in Mexico where his normally strong tee-to-green game deserted him. All that said, he can make cuts with far less than his A-game, so he presents as more valuable in PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf than in DFS.
Lee Westwood … He was a regular at PGA National through his last season of PGA TOUR membership in 2015. In six appearances, he hasn't missed a cut while registering three top-10s and a T25. And now he's back after a T22 in Mexico City. The 46-year-old is the only active golfer who has chosen not to renew membership, so don't think of him as a potential long-term own no matter his success. At the same time, he could be dangerous in a majors pool or other formats that include all of the big-stage events, just not the Playoffs because he's not eligible.
Matt Wallace … If there's reason to be excited about his T58 in Mexico, it's that he closed with 5-under 66 on the strength of terrific iron play. In his Honda debut last year, he finished T20 with similarly strong tee-to-green work. Even though the advice always isn't to get too up or down about one round, lean on the permanence of his class on the upswing.
Adam Schenk … I penciled him down as my No. 1 Sleeper, and then discovered that he was a Sleeper for The Honda Classic last year. Since I try to avoid that maneuver because it feels like cheating or cutting corners, that he's still sailing under the radar maximizes his value in DFS. He's fared best on easier tracks, but he profiles as a grinder who doesn't give anything away. That's been on display at PGA National where he's finished inside the top 30 in both trips. He's also fresh off a confidence-building T14 in Puerto Rico.
Byeong Hun An
Keith Mitchell … The irony of his breakthrough-clinching conversion from just outside 15 feet last year was that that's not the strength of his game. In fact, he ranked just 38th in Strokes Gained: Putting for the week. He's been showing signs of improvement on the greens this season, but his approaches have been substandard, so there's been zero consistency. Hurl on the layer that he's experiencing the duties of defending champion for the first time.
Joaquin Niemann … Save a couple of top-15s in limited-field events since breaking through at Greenbrier, he's been quiet. What we're likely witnessing is the continuation of his learning curve as he determines which sites make the most sense for him to tackle. Stick with him only for long-range objectives for now.
Kevin Streelman … This is in response to his runner-up finish at Pebble Beach where his friendship and competitive partnership with Larry Fitzgerald is on another level. They won their second pro-am portion of that tournament despite Streelman's drought as an individual upon arrival. At PGA National, he's 5-for-7 with only one top-40, and that was 11 years ago.
Ryan Palmer … He owns a solid record at PGA National, including a T4 last year when he walked off with a 63, but he's lost the touch off the tee and hasn't recovered from his closing 77 at Torrey Pines. Trap.
Keegan Bradley … He's worth a peek most weeks, but after an impressive flourish at PGA National from 2012-2014, he's just 1-for-4 with a T49 in 2018.
Matthew Wolff … Every golfer faces adversity over time. He's getting his first taste at the professional level, albeit in moderation. After 11 straight paydays, he missed his last two cuts on the West Coast Swing. Give the Californian a minute to right the ship.
Kyle Stanley … Enjoyed a marvelous week in Puerto Rico to finish T3, but he's missed four of seven cuts at PGA National and it's been seven years since the more recent of his pair of top-25s.
Si Woo Kim … Ended an 0-for-5 skid with a T37 at Riviera and hasn't cracked a top 25 in over six-and-a-half months.
RETURNING TO COMPETITION
Camilo Villegas … This is his first PGA TOUR appearance since the Houston Open in late March of 2018 due to an injured right shoulder, but he's made three starts on the 2020 Korn Ferry Tour. His last resulted in a T4 at the Country Club de Bogota Championship in his native Colombia. The 38-year-old is equipped with a Major Medical Extension affording him 13 starts to collect 287.683 FedExCup points and retain status. Given that he's a former champion at PGA National (2010), a veteran of 12 editions on the course and a local resident, he selected a dandy at which to reemerge.
Charles Howell III … Already his second early withdrawal in the last month (Farmers). He played twice in between but failed to finish inside the top 50 in either. While the absence of a recent solid finish at PGA National would haven't portended something special this week, the 40-year-old will remain on the outside of the bubble for qualification into the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play. The top 64 in the Official World Golf Ranking on March 16 determine the field. CH3 currently is No. 69.
Jason Kokrak … After withdrawing early after four commitment deadlines last season, this is his second of 2019-20 (Houston). It's been struggle so far with just two top-50 finishes among five paydays in nine starts, but he's been prone to extended slumps before reigniting. Hang in there if you're invested in the long-term.
J.J. Spaun … Talk about a rough go, he's 177th in the FedExCup standings in 13 starts and with no better than a T30 at Torrey Pines.
POWER RANKINGS RECAP – WORLD GOLF CHAMPIONSHIPS-MEXICO CHAMPIONSHIP
Power Ranking Golfer Result
1 Dustin Johnson T48
2 Rory McIlroy 5th
3 Justin Thomas T6
4 Jon Rahm T3
5 Adam Scott T26
6 Tommy Fleetwood T18
7 Hideki Matsuyama T6
8 Louis Oosthuizen T51
9 Sergio Garcia T37
10 Webb Simpson T61
11 Xander Schauffele T14
12 Matt Kuchar T22
13 Bubba Watson T18
14 Shane Lowry T29
15 Bryson DeChambeau 2nd
16 Paul Casey 11th
17 Patrick Reed Win
18 Rafa Cabrera Bello T16
19 Abraham Ancer T12
20 Branden Grace T42
Wild Card Cameron Smith T22
SLEEPERS RECAP – WORLD GOLF CHAMPIONSHIPS-MEXICO CHAMPIONSHIP
Ryan Fox T29
Lucas Herbert T58
Marcus Kinhult T69
Kurt Kitayama T53
Michael Lorenzo-Vera 66th
POWER RANKINGS RECAP – PUERTO RICO OPEN
Power Ranking Golfer Result
1 Scott Brown T67
2 Maverick McNealy T27
3 Alex Noren MC
4 David Hearn MC
5 Viktor Hovland Win
6 Henrik Norlander T44
7 Emiliano Grillo T3
8 Matthew NeSmith T6
9 Patrick Rodgers T35
10 K.H. Lee T14
OTHERS TO CONSIDER RECAP – PUERTO RICO OPEN
Chris Couch T35
Tom Lewis MC
D.J. Trahan T52
BIRTHDAYS AMONG ACTIVE GOLFERS ON THE PGA TOUR
February 25 … Hideki Matsuyama (28)
February 26 … none
February 27 … Ryan Armour (44); Abraham Ancer (29)
February 28 … none
February 29 … none
March 1 … Pat Perez (44); Chris Baker (34)
March 2 … none